Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Arctic Sea Ice Observations:
Seasonal Ice Mass Balance Buoys

How buoys reveal the story behind Arctic sea ice melt

Photo of a Seasonal Ice Mass Balance (SIMB) buoy deployed in the Arctic. Credit: Ryleigh Moore

With the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice levels, there is a great need to understand impacts onset by these transformations amidst the shrinking timeline for necessary action. “The Arctic Change Detection project at PMEL-University of Washington/ Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES) aims to address the impacts of sea ice disappearance on climate by leading the development of advanced model assessments to assess how sea ice/atmospheric interactions are affecting current and future climate predictions.

The project’s goals are divided into two objectives. The first is providing an up-to-date Arctic change detection activity for NOAA that includes recognition of rapidly emerging Arctic change and identification of localized and global impacts. This includes communicating these findings to NOAA and the wider community, including policy makers, fisheries managers, and the public. The second is to improve NOAA’s operational sea ice and weather forecasting capabilities, translating in-situ observations, and modeling climate impacts affecting ecosystems, communities, and infrastructure on multiple time-scales. These activities contribute to the safety and economic development in the Alaska maritime and coastal region.

Donald Perovich

Principal Investigator

Project Institution: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

Partnerships: NSF

Award Period: 01 October 2021 – 30 September 2022

Vessels Information: R/V Norseman II, R/V Sikuliaq, Cruises of Opportunity (during the 2022 Bering Arctic Subarctic Integrated Survey and the Northern Bering Sea Survey)

About The Buoys

Every September, two new ice mass balance buoys (affiliated with the Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project, the Arctic Observing Network and the International Arctic Buoy Program) are deployed in the Beaufort Sea. For this project, the team has developed a next generation Seasonal Ice Mass Balance buoy, that is a single, self-contained unit that floats to enable measurements in  younger, thinner sea ice that may not survive summer melt.

Data Access

Buoy Operation Periods

Measurements at the buoys are made every four hours and are immediately posted online. The operation periods for the buoys deployed in 2021, 2022, and 2023 are:

SIMB 2021-2: 9/04/2021– 11/07/2022
SIMB 2021-3: 9/05/2021 – 11/05/2022
SIMB 2021- 8: 03/05/2023 – present
SIMB 2021- 9: 03/05/2023 – present
SIMB 2021-10: 03/05/2023 – present
SIMB 2021-11: 03/05/2023 – present
SIMB 2022-6: 9/26/2022 – present 
SIMB 2022-7: 9/25/2022 – present

Ice mass balance buoys

Current active buoys include:
SIMB 2022- 6
SIMB 2022- 7
SIMB 2021- 8
SIMB 2021- 9
SIMB 2021-10

SIMB 2021-11

Real-Time Ice-Mass Buoy Data Portal (Cryosphere Innovation)

SIMB 2021-8 live feed

SIMB 2021-9 live feed

SIMB 2021-10 live feed

SIMB 2021-11 live feed

SIMB 2022-6 live feed

SIMB 2021-2 live feed (retired)

SIMB 2021-3 live feed (retired)

SIMB 2022-7 live feed (retired)

CRREL-Dartmouth Buoy data prior to 2016

Figure 1: (a–h) Regional ice concentration maps and position on 15 August of the relevant year for the eight sites. The bar in the lower right-hand corner represents the relative amounts of bottom melting observed at the site over the 1 April to 10 October time span. (i) Scattergram showing cumulative bottom melt versus average ice concentration along each site trajectory from 1 April to 1 October (p < 0.001).

Featured Publication

A Synthesis of Observations and Models to Assess the Time Series of Sea Ice Mass Balance in the Beaufort Sea

April 7, 2022

Cameron J. Planck, Donald K. Perovich, Bonnie Light

Over the past four decades, there has been substantial thinning of the summer sea ice cover in the Beaufort Sea. Variations in sea ice mass balance reflect these changes and give insight to the environmental forces which caused them. In this work, the time series results from eight Lagrangian mass balance sites that operated in the Beaufort Sea over the years 1997–2015 are analyzed. Direct measurements from the sites are combined with estimates of ice/ocean heat input to examine the roll of solar heating on ice loss, growth, and melt rates. From the late 1990s to the present, a general increase in bottom melting and solar heat input to the upper ocean was observed. 

Publications & References

Golden, K., L. Bennetts, E. Cherkaev, I. Eisenman, D. Feltham, C. Horvat, E. Hunke, C. Jones, D. Perovich, P. Ponte-Castaneda, C. Strong, D. Sulsky, and A. Wells, 2020, Modeling sea ice, Notices Amer. Math. Soc., 67, 1535-1554.
Access Link

Mallett, R., J. Stroeve, M. Tsamados, R. Willatt, T. Newman, V. Nandan, J. Landy, P. Itkin, M. Oggier, M. Jaggi, and D. Perovich, Sub-kilometre scale distribution of snow depth on Arctic sea ice from Soviet drifting stations, J. Glaciol., 68, 271, 1014 – 1026,
Access Link

Perovich, D. 2022. Ice mass balance buoys. Oceanography,
Access Link

Planck, C., D. Perovich, and B. Light, 2020: A synthesis of observations and models to assess changes to sea ice mass balance in the Beaufort Sea, J Geophys. Res., 125,
Access Link

Perovich, D., Sea ice, Early Career Workshop at the Year of Polar Prediction Final Summit, 2022.

Perovich, D.K., It’s a new Arctic Ocean, Lunch-time Polar Science, Brown University, 2022.